By Setota Hailemariam
The University of Maryland’s undergraduate dance concert, “UMoves,” is an annual ritual, and is a quintessential part of The Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center’s spring programming, but it differs greatly from the other recitals held there.
The concert, which ran this weekend from May 4-6, was almost entirely choreographed by students in the School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance studies, with the exception of the performance’s opening piece, titled “All ways fall, never fall.” It was developed by Artists-in-Residence at the university, Xan Burley and Alex Springer.
Sixteen dancers starred in the fittingly-named piece, a whirlwind of constant motion in which it would’ve been easy to ram into a fellow performer — but they managed to navigate around the stage without any collisions.
The Saturday, May 5 performance next featured a dance choreographed by the program’s students, but performed by students in nearby Northwestern High School’s Visual and Performing Arts Dance Program.
Adriane Fang, director of the dance concert and assistant professor in the university’s School of Theatre, Dance, and Performance Studies, spoke before the high school students’ performance, and praised the teaching abilities of the students who got the chance to choreograph the piece.
One of the most applause-inducing pieces was “Mistari Ya Kuona,” choreographed by junior dance and biology double major Angad Kalsi. Set to “Hunger of the Pine” by alt-J, it seemed to be a commentary on the unwillingness of some members of society to reflect on the state of the nation or current events as a whole, represented by the blindfolds every artist wore in the dance and the spliced-up snippets of news stories that interrupted the song.
“That conversation is one no one wants to ha-” was the last snippet, dramatically cut off and leading into the ending, during which the dancers slowly raised their fists in defiance and one standing at the front of the stage removed his blindfold, then dropped it.
Immediately after was a dance titled “Do Not Defenestrate Me,” choreographed by student performer Bella Hayes. Though containing a seemingly innocuous start-scene, set to the 1959 sock-hop single “Lipstick On Your Collar” by Connie Francis, it developed into a pointedly rebellious body of work, centered around themes of feminism and rejection of sexism. This was exemplified through the dancers cheekily changing into T-shirt cover-ups with bikini bodies plastered on them, and the use of a refrigerator prop with magnets spelling out “f— you” on the front.
“I’m taking a women’s studies class right now, which helped me with a lot of my inspiration,” Hayes, a senior dance major, said about her piece. “I think a lot of my creative process came from taking chances and being really brave and taking risks, not being afraid to do something that was a little daring and out of the ordinary.”
Social commentary was the prevailing theme of the night, as another dance, “underSTAND,” centered around the death of Trayvon Martin. Yet another, titled “Lost Among…” was inspired by the struggles of depression and anxiety, according to the concert’s program.
The final number, “The New Monomyth,” was choreographed by Amber Lucia Chabus, and utilized a superhero motif, as well as one of “breaking news,” to make a statement about how women are viewed in society.
One dancer played the role of a news anchor, and delivered a report about how a woman “turned her butt into a booty” without doing any squats, but later gave another breaking news update on the number of women running for political office, and other uplifting news.
Chabus, a senior dance and kinesiology double major, also went to a performing arts high school where she studied dance, and said it was her passion.
The audition process of the production, she explained, began months prior.
“In the start of the spring semester in January, February, you submit a proposal and in this proposal you say your idea behind it … and then there’s an audition where you share a one-to-two minute ‘sneak peek’ of what you’re hoping the piece would be,” she said.
“Thank you to all of the wonder women in the world,” Chabus wrote in the concert’s program. “Let’s keep fighting!”
Featured Photo Credit: Courtesy of Geoff Sheil.
Setota Hailemariam is a sophomore journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.